Transition is hard.
In fact, it can be downright uncomfortable.
I’ve noticed this in my own life. I’ve observed that there are three types of transitions that we experience. There might be more, but… these are the types I came up with:
Daily Transitions. These are the little transitions that occur throughout our day or week.
- Changing to work mode after exercise
- Getting motivated after a lunch break
- Leaving alone time to spend time with the family
- Transitioning from the weekend to a work week
Recurring Transitions. I picture these as occurring fairly often. But, definitely a little more spaced out.
- Coming home from a vacation
- Starting of a new semester
- Living with a new roommate
- Getting over a cold
Life Transitions. To me, these typically occur very infrequently. Sometimes only once or twice in a lifetime.
- Going on, or coming home from a Mission
- Getting married
- Graduating from school
- Changing a career
- Moving to a new city
- Becoming an Empty Nester
And… I definitely think that this Coronavirus situation has introduced a whole new level of transition that none of us even really knew was coming.
So, Why are Transitions So Difficult?
Constantly, our brains are creating patterns. In order to conserve energy, it likes to do the same thing over and over again. It also likes to do what is familiar because then we don’t have to expose ourselves to danger… well, to our brain’s perceived danger, that is.
Hopping to a new course of action, or a new way of thinking, or a new set of feelings, is tough. Our brains don’t like it, and that is where the discomfort comes in.
I’ve hiked some really great trails in my lifetime. I wouldn’t consider myself an avid hiker, but I do like a getting out in nature. The level and difficulty of hikes that I’ve experienced vary quite a bit!
Some are clear and really well maintained. Sometimes my family and I are hiking on a “trail” that is paved. Other times, I’ve hiked a path that people have traveled on, but it is not as maintained. And even other times, my family and I have felt like we are blazing our own trail, up and over boulders, to find a hidden waterfall.
Think of it like this: Your brain likes the clear, maintained, well beaten path. And if it’s a paved trail, even better.
Our Brains Are Resistant to Hiking New Trails
So, it makes sense that throughout our day, when it’s time to switch gears, and move onto a new path, that our brains are a little resistant to it.
I kind of think of the Daily Transitions almost like finishing one trail, and seeing another trail on a map, that you want to hike again. You’ve done it many times before, but it still feels a little uncomfy. You still have to decide which trail to re-hike. You still have to remember how to get there and you still have to drive to the new trailhead. There’s definitely a little bit of effort and work involved there.
The Recurring Transitions are a little more difficult. It’s like walking up to a trail that hasn’t been groomed in awhile. You’ve walked the trail before, but there’s definitely a little more work to clear the debris. You might need to clear a branch or two that’s been blown down in a wind storm, or add a few stepping stones to a low spot that becomes frequently muddy.
The Life Transitions are like blazing a brand new trail. Creating a new “trail” is tough for our brains. First, you need to map out where you want the trail to go. Specific tools are required. You have to clear the path and remove roots. Tripping hazards all have to be cleared and water run off should considered.
It takes time to create a well beaten, easily traveled path. And a whole lot of work. To our brains… the path of least resistance is best. It would much rather just stick with its current path.
So, when you are ready for a different course of action… I have a few tips for you.
Daily, Recurring and Lifetime Transition Tips:
- Plan Ahead and Take Steps. Before the transitional times occurs, plan the next move that you will make after. Scheduling makes all the difference here. What is the next step you are going to take? Plan now and then, start taking steps forward as soon as you are able. And don’t believe your brain when it tells you, “I don’t know what to do.” See my blog post about that here. Just know that you can always pick a different trail later.
- Be Onto Your Brain. It’s going to want to avoid the discomfort of the transition by grabbing a pint of ice cream, binging on Netflix, or scrolling on your phone. Your brain wants to distract you. So, make sure your coping strategies are productive. Choose coping strategies that help you process the discomfort, rather than numb the discomfort.
- Don’t Use Timelines. There is no set amount of time, work or effort needed to successfully navigate a transition. How ever long it takes to transition, is how long it is supposed to take. So, make space for that, and be willing to sit with the discomfort for as long as necessary.
Experience More Fulfillment
Transitions, though uncomfortable, are a part of our experience on this earth. Day in and day out. Year in and year out. Whether blazing our own trails, or tidying up a beaten path… knowing, understanding and having compassion for our transition times, allows us to experience more fulfillment all along the way.
Happy Trails, my friends.